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Capitalism as the religion of indebtedness and debt
by Maurizio Lazzarato and Klaus Wagener
Friday Jul 30th, 2021 6:48 AM
In capitalism, the fundamental social relation is neither exchange nor production. Rather, it is debt that dominates and supersedes every other way of recognizing and valorizing the measure between people. Those who have money are creditworthy, manifesting the sign of God's grace.
Capitalism as the religion of indebtedness and debt
by Maurizio Lazzarato
[This article published on 3/10/2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.linksnet.de/index.php/artikel/48159.]

1. in a youth text Capitalism as Religion, Walter Benjamin describes the relationship between debt and subjectivity, indebtedness and the formation of the psyche as fundamental to the exploitation and domination of capital.

This particular religion has three essential characteristics:
1. capitalism is a cult religion;
2. the cult of this particular religion is infinite;
3. this religion produces both culpability and indebtedness.

The religion of capitalism is a pure cult. It knows neither dogmas nor theology. Its only interest is the practical behavior of its followers. The cult is organized around the god of money, especially in its form as credit currency. This cult allows no transcendence; money is an immanent god incarnated in the world. The production of credit and debt is - as for the monotheistic god - a kind of creatio ex nihilo (banks produce credit through simple writing).

This cult has no beginning and no end, it coincides with life, it is permanent. Unlike other religions, there is no interplay between holidays (with sacrifices, prayers and rituals in which the community came together) and working days. The cult of the money god is permanent. It blurs the difference between the sacred and the profane, the everyday and the celebration.

The third trait that defines this religion is the intertwining of debt and debt. Capitalism is the first religion that does not provide for atonement but, on the contrary, perpetuates guilt. The reparation of the debt is impossible because the god of money is itself immanent to the world. He is not a lawgiver and creator beyond the world, as in other religions. God is not dead, as Nietzsche had proclaimed. He is part of the world in the form of money (credit).

Benjamin tells us in a different way what Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals had already expressed: capitalism is not a mode of production without being at the same time a production of subjectivity, memory and sensibility. The relationship between creditor and debtor cannot unfold without a relationship between subjectivities being established and "trust" being its content.

With debt, time is bought and sold, not labor time as in the industrial organization, but simply time. Thus, a very particular modality of a power relation emerges. The debtor buys, even before paying, the time of the enjoyment of a good, of a project, of a "life". With the debt comes the possibility to do with this time, including the time between the granting of the loan and its repayment, what otherwise could not be done.

The creditor has a mortgage on this time because the debtor has to pay it off. The creditor controls this time by requesting that it be used to raise money to repay the debt. The creditor can thus impose a way of life, an incentive to work, to save, and to make sacrifices necessary to repay the loan.

In capitalism, the fundamental social relation is neither exchange nor production. Rather, it is debt that dominates and supersedes every other way of recognizing and valorizing the measure between people. Those who have money are creditworthy, manifesting the sign of God's grace. Those who are not creditworthy cannot possibly save themselves because they are in debt and are culpable in a way that cannot be atoned for. Since debt is not an individual problem but a collective one, since we are all debtors because of the public debt, even if individually we have not taken out a loan, all are guilty, the whole world is in debt. Debt is the "destiny" of our societies and our lives.

2 The policies of debt are not only macroeconomic. They are not only embodied in the great financial and stock exchange flows, in the great number of financial securities exchanged daily, circulating at high speed, twenty-four of twenty-four hours in the electronic networks.
The debts are an instrument of control, of incentive to work and productivity for the immense amount of precarious, domestic and migrant labor. They permeate the daily lives of the "poor" in order to organize, direct, and subject them to the logic of unpaid or low-paid labor.

In the countries of the South, from India to Africa, from Asia to Las Americas, self-employed, informal, precarious, unpaid or poorly paid work has undergone a very great evolution. For a very large majority of these "poor" populations, which include a declassed middle class, access to wages and the welfare state is blocked. What remains open is access to credit, or more precisely, microcredit (small loans, even as small as $20 or $30).

After the explosion of poverty and precariousness caused by the policies of "structural adjustment" as promoted by the world financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, etc.) to pay the public debt, microcredit has developed at the micro level. Debts are incurred to buy household electrical appliances, pay water and electricity bills, and to eat. If the debtor misses a payment deadline, interest rates skyrocket and debtors run the risk of paying three or four times more than the actual purchase price. Debt is common in the popular classes of the countries of the South of the world. The "inclusion" propagated by the policies of the international financial institutions no longer runs through employment, but through debt.

In Kenya, according to a company specializing in "inclusion through finance," of the millions of people who rely on microcredit, 2.7 million are insolvent. 400,000 of them have to repay less than two dollars (the interest is usurious, for a loan of thirty dollars there are four and a half dollars of interest to pay).

Creditworthiness implies a knowledge and control of the private life of the "debtors". It is assessed on the basis of behaviors that the microcredit companies deduce from the data recorded by cell phones: If the debtors often talk to their parents, if their routes and trips always controlled by cell phones are routine, then they are more reliable than others whose behaviors are random and unpredictable.

The same financial inclusion is increasingly prevalent in India, where there has been a wave of suicides among peasants (mainly women) who have not been able to repay their small loans. Microcredit is also very widespread in Las Americas, where it is intended to replace the dismantling and privatization of public services.

Microcredit is both an instrument of social and subjective control. It sets in motion a corporate logic in the individual, it forces to calculate, to anticipate expenses, and it encourages to organize life in dependence on (precarious, underpaid) work, which it takes to pay the interest on the debt. It disciplines the daily lives of millions of poor people. Microcredit divides and individualizes because each debtor is isolated and faces their creditors alone. Precarious, migrant, domestic labor takes on a new shape insofar as it is characterized by a discontinuity of employment and income and by a continuity of debts to be repaid.

Debt is a dispositive of the governance of self-employed labor. In the third volume of Capital, Karl Marx quotes a text from 1840 about a "pastoral power" (for Michel Foucault, pastoral power controls and directs the daily life of the governed) that will exert a growing influence both on the behavior of Americans who live by juggling credit cards and on the "behavior" of the poor who borrow very small sums: "The banking establishments are religious and moral institutions. [...] The advice of the banker_ is [...] more important than that of the pastor." Marx is still talking here about the commoners who borrow money from the bank for their investments. A century and a half later, everyone, even the poor, can and must borrow. Here we encounter again the religious and moral dimension with which we began this short text.
Translated from the French by Birgit Mennel.

This text appears in Bildpunkt. Journal of IG Bildende Kunst (https://igbildendekunst.at/zeitschrift/), No. 56, Winter 2020/21, "On the Aesthetic Economy of Debt."

Maurizio Lazzarato is a sociologist and philosopher who lives and works in Paris. He researches immaterial labor, ontology of labor, cognitive capitalism, and "post-socialist" movements.
______________________________________________________

The long struggle for a post-capitalist society
On the chances of a socialist renaissance in a historical and current political-strategic context.
by Klaus Wagener
[This article published on 12/1/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.linksnet.de/artikel/48110.]

This article appeared in the November 2020 issue ("Ways of Socialism") of Marxistische Blätter. It can be ordered from Neue Impulse Verlag at the following link: https://www.neue-impulse-verlag.de/shop/item/978396170394/wege-des-sozi...

The (Corona) crisis has ruthlessly exposed the inability of neoliberally trimmed capitalism and its political personnel to satisfy people's elementary needs. Even if it is not felt to the same extent in Germany because of the depressing political conditions: the neoliberal offensive is in a deep existential crisis after 40 years in which it was able to achieve global hegemony. The inability of the neoliberal vanguard states in particular to effectively address the challenges of the pandemic has highlighted the structural disproportions and aberrations of the neoliberal counterreformation and, moreover, is leading them to absurd excesses such as the unrestrained enrichment of the ultra-rich and the impoverishment of millions of citizens. The neoliberal mode of exploitation has proven to be a catastrophic aberration and has wreaked havoc in the formerly richest states of the world that was not thought possible. The proof, previously only theoretical, has long been empirical. With hundreds of thousands of - avoidable - Covid 19 deaths, shattered economies, obscene enrichment of the rich, amidst bankruptcies and impoverishment, unemployment, apartment cancellations and evictions, the neoliberal offensive has sufficiently demonstrated its unsuitability as a socio-economic principle. The need to think about a society beyond capitalism, about a rational socio-economic concept based on reason, democracy, equality and harmony with the surrounding biosphere, is palpable.

This quest is old. The slave revolts of antiquity, the religiously influenced life concepts and fantasies of redemption of the Middle Ages were reactions to early brutal practices of exploitation and oppression, and the equally brutal reactions of the rulers to them have since helped shape history as a form of class struggle. A class struggle that at the time offered no real perspective for the oppressed classes. With the emergence of capitalism, the modern proletariat also emerged, the "doubly free wage laborers" of whom Karl Marx says in the Communist Manifesto that they are the men who will wield the weapons that "bring death" to the bourgeoisie. Here, for the first time, the perspective opens up that with the emancipation of the proletariat, the emancipation of humanity as a whole can also be achieved. Since then, the thoughts of the proletarian revolutionaries have revolved around the question of how this task of humanity can best be put into effect.

The historical process has constantly changed both the conditions and preconditions under which an alternative to capitalism could be established and capitalism itself. Capitalism, despite its crisis nature - its first cyclical crisis took place as early as 1825 - has proven to be much more stable than the ancients, the theorists of communism, had thought. Likewise, the idea of what an alternative could look like has undergone very strong modifications through social practice, the trial and error of the various attempts at realization. If one looks at the phase of historical implementation of capitalist relations of production and society, from the Upper Italian-Southern French early mercantile capitalism of the 12th-13th centuries, to the French Revolution and the founding of the German Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively, it was a long contradictory path with many setbacks and changes of form. The French bourgeoisie alone needed an entire revolutionary cycle to find a reasonably stable form. Likewise, attempts to build a post-capitalist, rational-human society, from the attempts of the early utopian socialists, the "sky stormers" of the Paris Commune, the modifications of Red October, to the stark changes in direction of the Chinese attempt at socialism, were subject to serious changes. The idea of a valid socialist orthodoxy, which was cultivated at times, can neither be theoretically justified by the classics nor covered by historical reality. The forms and also the prospects of success of the post-capitalist social project were always also a function of the geostrategic balance of power.

Preconditions for Alternatives
Historically, the labor movement and its striving for a post-capitalist, socialist society without exploitation is a recent phenomenon. The ideas, cultivated especially in the III. International, that an ultimately valid form had been found which now had to be consistently implemented, are politically and ideologically understandable as a stabilizing moment in the ongoing situation of siege and crass economic inferiority, but they have led not insignificantly to the moments of inertia that have made a flexible response to the changes that have developed with the rise of the U.S. empire as the globally dominant power, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, impossible. In a "globalized" world, it can be considered reasonably certain that a relevant size of social production and population on a global scale, access to strategic resources, the ability to master cutting-edge global technology and security-related armaments technology must be regarded as primary prerequisites for the prospects of success for an attempt at socialism. For the project itself, the conquest and defense of political power, as well as the degree of socialization of the means of production and the management and control of production, remain decisive criteria for future attempts as well.

With the defeat of Red October, however, it has also become clear that the conquest and safeguarding of political power and the ability to implement an alternative, socialist social project in the phase of capitalist imperialism must be understood as a historical, global project that can provide both the political-strategic unity, the military strength and the economic potential necessary to repel the fierce attacks of the imperialist forces. To put it succinctly, the ability to impose new relations of production and society has become a global question of power. What the bourgeois revolutions have already demonstrated on a continental scale, the main imperial powers with their supremacy, the U.S. empire, are now demonstrating on a global scale.

An old ruling class does not step down voluntarily. The struggle for the enforcement of a socio-economic, social challenge takes place in all fields: military, economic, technological, propagandistic and political-ideological-cultural. This was the case with Red October, it has been developing in the same direction since 2011 in the struggle of the Empire against Eurasian cooperation, especially against the PRC. At the same time, the two struggles form a historical unity, albeit a thoroughly contradictory one. Without the Soviet Union and its 74-year tenacious struggle against exploitation and imperialism, the current position of Eurasian Cooperation and the PRC in particular is inconceivable.

The besieged fortress
To a not inconsiderable extent, this power struggle with the dying old is shaping the emerging new, the future, newly forming society. The Russian Civil War, the war of extermination of Hitler's fascism, the "Cold War" of the U.S. empire promoted a radical militarization of the CPSU and society in the Soviet Union, which, for all its functionality in the immediate war situations, also became the basis for the crimes of the Stalin era and likewise prevented the urgently needed modification of production and property relations in the 1970s and 1980s. The Soviet Union was not on the "road to communism," as Nikita Khrushchev believed, nor was it a "developed socialist society." Red October was forced to remain largely at the level of the state of war and siege, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Already during World War II, Anglo-American leaders had developed the concept of a massive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. This "Doomsday" conception was pushed to monstrous dimensions by the early 1960s, as the planning for "SIOP 62" (Single Integrated Operational Plan) shows. SIOP 62 envisioned the use of 3,200 thermonuclear warheads with an explosive force of 7,847 megatons against the socialist states. This threat, advanced with the collective force of global imperialism, required such an enormous defensive effort that it was not possible at the same time to achieve that civilian productive potential, that "critical mass", which would have been necessary to be able to conquer the leadership in the development of the social productive forces. This militarized socialism, and this was the goal of imperial containment, could not achieve that global hegemony status which capitalism of European-North American expansion succeeded in achieving at times. It should be noted, however, that the successful response of the Soviet Union to the nuclear war plans of the U.S. empire, prevented not only a war, but, as we know today, the extinction of all mankind in the nuclear winter.

The attempt at socialism of the III. International has perished. It was a besieged fortress in a hostile, materially clearly superior surrounding country. This was clear to the Bolsheviks even in the early 1920s, when the postwar revolutions in Western Europe failed to materialize. The appeal of Red October increased sharply again in the Great Depression of the 1930s and with the Red Army's victory over German fascism, but the twice-destroyed Soviet Union, struggling for bare survival in the face of the nuclear threat, was no real alternative for the "Western" working class of the New Deal era. The anti-communist forces in the "Western" labor movement, were able to and still are able to maintain their dominance. The leadership in the overall social development of productive forces continued to lie with the capitalist states. Even the successes of the socialist and communist forces in the "Third World" did not change this basic strategic structure. The new colonially independent nation-states were, as a rule, in great need of finance and support and, with few exceptions, hardly in a position to make a major, independent industrial and technological contribution to the communist/socialist world movement. Even at the best of times, in the mid-1970s, the combined GDP of the U.S. Empire and Western Europe, was about four times that of all Warsaw Treaty countries. Since an enormously large part of the economic effort had to be spent on defense, living standards remained low. Red October, for all its strategic successes, was forced by the international balance of forces to remain at a level just above that of the struggle for survival, in the dictatorship of the proletariat. Despite all its achievements in military technology, it could not develop into the champion of the development of productive forces.

The internal disintegration of the "Only World Power"
But the victory over Red October did not leave the empire, "Western" capitalism as a whole, untouched. Neoliberal counter-reformation and imperial over-extension have left "Western" societies over-indebted, infrastructurally emaciated and socially disparate. In the (Corona) crisis, the empire offers the dystopian image of a society disintegrating into street battles, rampant poverty, bankruptcies and unemployment on the one hand, and obscene wealth on the other. Instead of being confronted with the New Deal/Bretton Woods-era spirit of construction, as the Soviet Union was, the Chinese Communists are now confronted with progressive neoliberal decay. In the wars of the Global War on Terror and in the Great Crises of the 21st century, the empire has long since forfeited its position of hegemony. Its economic weakness, its industrial sellout, have necessitated policies of harsh protectionism, power and gunboat politics, robbery, open extortion and unchecked monetary inflation. Corruption has long since reached the hypertrophied, completely overpriced military machine. Washington has degenerated into a kind of global mafia headquarters.
This policy of the drawn gun, of permanent wars on credit cards against a background of plunder by a highly parasitic financial economy, is not sustainable. The empire's ability to oppose social changes is noticeably weakening in the phase of decay, despite its militant appearance. The extension of the MAGA ("Make America Great Again") concept to its own allies has massively unsettled the important European vassals in particular. Like internal cohesion, international support for the empire is eroding. The imperial media and propaganda apparatus have widely moved to an unrestrained whitewashing of their own situation and an absurd demonization and heresy of opposing politicians and leaders who have been built up into ultimate horrors. Dissenting opinions are increasingly censored. In addition, with the demise of Red October, the reformist, hard anti-communist part of the workers' movement has also perished.

Reformism as a whole has sunk into insignificance, and with the rollback of socio-economic integration and social-chauvinism in the neo-liberal phase, the organized support of imperialism in the workers' movement has largely perished. With the elimination of any criticism, the last possibilities of the ancien regime for internal reform and renewal are also decaying

From Anti-Soviet Ally to Boomtown of Globalization
The leadership of the People's Republic followed the Soviet pattern in essence only as long as it was necessary to gain and stabilize power. Serious differences of opinion emerged as early as the late 1950s. Then, when the voluntarist concepts of the "Great Leap" and the "Cultural Revolution" failed, the leadership around Mao also made a strategic shift in the early 1970s, away from the international solidarity of the III. International, toward a de facto alliance with the U.S. empire. This chumminess endured beyond the historic defeat of Red October. After 1991, however, on the part of the U.S. empire, no longer anti-communist/anti-Soviet motivated, but now neoliberal/globalization oriented, to secure "share-holder value" or better maximum profit. This phase began a few years after Mao's turn with Deng Xiaoping's "Four Modernizations," 1978. This phase of Chinese construction through finance capital-driven cooperation continued until 2011, after which the strategic reorientation of the empire to the Pacific Century and the "Great Power Competition" also officially took place.

After the victory over the Soviet Union, empire theorists believed themselves to be at the "end of history." They planned for a "New American Century" (PNAC). There was to be no such challenge to the "Only World Power" again. China was considered of little importance, the Chinese leadership had accepted the world power position of the empire and was ready to cooperate. It had opened the country to "Western" finance capital, which was greedy for maximum profit. On the long run, the Western strategists were convinced, the economic basis of Western and Chinese monopoly capital would "revolutionize" the socialist superstructure. It was this imperial hubris that gave China, as the boomtown of globalization, the chance for a true Chinese industrial revolution. An extremely contradictory process, in which at the same time a significant part of the Chinese economy had to be put at the disposal of capitalist exploitation and profit-making. The CCP has accepted enormous social and political costs for this rise; the party has not only accepted large amounts of foreign capital, but has also accepted the accumulation of private Chinese capital in the billions of dollars, turning a society of the poor but equal into a society of social inequality.

In a sense, it is the distance or even opposition to the Soviet Union and the de facto "partnership" with the U.S. empire that has allowed China to advance its industrial construction largely unchallenged. However, the historical dialectic has (re)transformed this temporary anti-Soviet chumminess into an existential competitive relationship in which the survival of U.S. supremacy is being fought over. Since Chiang Kai-shek usurped the leadership of the Guomindang, the CCP has been the only force that could bring about China's national liberation, the end of the "century of humiliation" after the Opium Wars. The restoration of China's national sovereignty, its millennia of greatness against imperial oppression by Japan and the "West" was closely linked to the proletarian revolution from the beginning. With the imperial "Great Power-Competition" this situation has returned in a certain way in a new quality.

New Economic Policy 4.0
However, China has changed tremendously in the last 30 years. Its willingness to experiment, to trail & error, which in the early years had produced the disasters of the "Great Leap" and the Cultural Revolution, has, through a kind of "New Economic Policy 4.0", catapulted the backward agrarian country into modernity. China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty and is in a position to plan and execute a gigantic infrastructure project spanning four continents, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Since 1978, the People's Republic has developed into an industrial hotspot, the industrial workbench of the world, which clearly outshines U.S. industry in important sectors. Even before the Corona outbreak, the drift of industrial centers away from North America and Europe to the East Asian states had taken on historic dimensions. Chinese technology development, as exemplified by Huawei, ZTE, and ByteDance (TikTok), has at least caught up with that of the U.S. empire in key areas. In 2018, China surpassed the U.S. as the largest trading nation. China alone produces as many industrial products as the U.S., Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. combined. Together with Japan, South Korea and India, the Asian powerhouse produces 1.5 times as much as the main "Western" nations. In the wake of the (Corona) crisis, this ratio will continue to change in favor of East Asia, according to everything that can be seen so far. The "West", the European-North American dominance, no longer stands for the development of the overall social productive forces. It should only be a matter of time before East Asia's industrial leadership translates into corresponding political, economic and military force development.

China, unlike the Soviet Union, has managed to get industrially on a par with the now, however, decaying, neoliberally deindustrialized and over-indebted empire. It has been able to accumulate the technology and "critical mass" that will make it difficult for the empire to successfully implement a containment strategy without harming itself the most.

This is particularly evident in the case of Huawei. Despite massive U.S. sanctions, the tech company has managed to produce a smartphone without U.S. components on par with those of U.S. giants and leads in 5G technology by a wide margin over its "Western" competitors. The blockade strategy ruthlessly enforced by the empire has the unpleasant effect for the countries participating in it of falling behind technologically themselves. Here, and in an area of high technology, the sanctioning strategy turns against the sanctioners themselves. The resulting de-coupling effect, while protectionist, secures an exclusive market in the "West" for U.S. tech corporations, at the same time increasingly excludes them from potentially larger Asian markets. This protectionism is a significant sign of weakness. It will not advance the Empire's competitiveness. On the contrary.

Socialism or re-capitalization?
It is no secret that Chinese success is largely based on the admission of capitalist enterprises and investments of foreign, mainly U.S., financial capital. The opening of the country to Western capital, which came about after extensive consultations with the financial institutions of the "West," the IMF and the World Bank, following the "Four Modernizations" after 1978, has been the subject of intense debate and criticism in "orthodox" socialist and communist circles. The People's Republic's appeal to petty-bourgeois leftist currents in the West and the "Third World" noticeably waned. After all, millions of Chinese people were gradually subjected to exploitation by "Western" finance capital on a grand scale. Social inequality in the People's Republic grew rapidly. The Gini coefficient rose to over 0.7, roughly comparable to capitalist France (at Gini 0, there is complete equality; at Gini 1, one person owns everything). The first Chinese dollar billionaires appeared. In 1990, the Shanghai Stock Exchange, a symbol of gambler capitalism, also opened in China. This was an almost dramatic swing to the right after the years of ultra-leftist policies of the "Great Leap" and the "Cultural Revolution." The Chinese leadership seemed to be following up its political rapprochement with Washington with an economic rapprochement with Wall Street. China's war against the socialist republic of Vietnam, which began in 1979, just four years after the U.S. aggression, caused a rapid loss of sympathy anyway. Even more so when one considered the reason for the war: Vietnam had put an end to the murderous regime of the "Khmer Rouge" in Cambodia. The "Khmer Rouge" were supported materially and diplomatically by China and the USA alike until the end of the 1990s, which of course did not prevent the "Western" propaganda machine from tearfully mourning the victims of "Stone Age Communism".

Then, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the hopes of communists and leftists were low that the People's Republic could carry on the torch of revolution. The historical process had obviously gone into reverse. This seemed to be true for China as well. The next 20 years pointed to a confirmation of this assessment. China seemed firmly in the grip of international finance capital and its own privatization profiteers, who had come into fabulous wealth overnight. However, the crises of 2000 and 2007 revealed the limits of speculation-driven globalization. The balance shifted. China became the engine of the global economy during the crisis. It rose from being the world's cheap workbench to becoming the industrial and social challenger of the empire and "Western" capitalism. The country ran ever-increasing export surpluses with the U.S. and in 2014 held nearly 4 trillion. U.S. dollars as foreign exchange reserves. The People's Republic became the empire's largest creditor. Much of U.S. industry was no longer competitive.

This created an immediate need for action. The Obama administration officially turned the tide in 2011. China, like Russia and Iran before it, went from being a trading partner and investment location to a strategic adversary. The "Global War On Terror" for supremacy in the Middle East was downgraded on the list of priorities in favor of the "Great Power Competition". For the People's Republic, the need to react to this changed situation arose. In Xi Jinping, a man who stood for and continues to stand for a decisive response, strong state structures, Party leadership, and a renaissance of the socialist outlook emerged at the helm of the Party in 2012. Xi's name is closely associated with the strategic Eurasian development and integration program of the New Silk Road (BRI).

Prospects for success in "Cold War 2.0"
The renaissance of socialist ideas is no accident. The CCP sees itself as completing a kind of national rebirth after the "century of humiliation" that began with its defeat in the Opium Wars in 1842. The solution to this national task is closely linked to the CCP's socialist orientation. Under Chiang Kai-shek, the bourgeois-nationalist Guomindang had degenerated into an instrument of imperial power interests. It offered no prospects for the vast majority of Chinese, especially the rural population. In order to successfully counter this strategic confrontation, the "Cold War 2.0," the People's Republic needs a renewal of its social alliances. As things stand, this can only happen on the basis of overcoming poverty and renewing and consolidating the socialist promise for the future. Only the prospect of the socialist perspective and national rebirth is a sufficiently strong "cement" to enable society to withstand such a challenge as the full confrontation of the empire, Cold War 2.0, as it is currently being ignited by Washington. This had already been demonstrated in the Soviet Union, when Soviet society, looking to a bright socialist future, was able to withstand the civil war, the invasions of the 15 powers, and the fascist war of extermination.

Success in this struggle is by no means a foregone conclusion. The fate of the Soviet Union has shown that as well. China is still considerably further from a "developed socialist society" than the Soviet Union was in the 1970s. Yet its chances are infinitely better. Its former anti-Sovietism and such ambivalent rapprochement with the empire had made possible, one might perhaps say surreptitiously, a dynamic development of the productive forces, which can (not must) now be the basis for a new attempt at socialist development. China leads the "Fortune Global 500", the list of the 500 companies with the highest turnover in the world, published by the US business magazine "Fortune", with 124 companies, ahead of the USA, 121 companies. Positions 2, 3 and 4, for example, are held by Chinese (state-owned) companies. Around 85 percent of these Chinese companies, which are very successful on an international scale, especially the largest ones, are state-owned enterprises.

U.S. Secretary of State Micheal Pompeo picked up on this development in his "Cold War Speech" to the Nixon Library, criticizing that Nixon's policy of rapprochement had ultimately failed. So China had not developed into a capitalist grand vassal of the empire after all, but had become a serious threat to the capitalist world. If the "Free World" does not change its relationship with China, "Communist China will change us".

In the long run, the success of a socialist perspective depends not only on its ability to appear as a motor of social progress, as a driving force of the development of productive forces in society as a whole. It is, as Marx describes in the famous "Preface to the Critique of Political Economy," about a development of the productive forces, specific to socialism, which is incompatible, or better, less and less compatible with capitalism. "At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into contradiction with the existing relations of production, or, what is only a legal expression for it, with the relations of property within which they had hitherto moved. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into fetters of the same. Then an epoch of social revolution occurs. With the change of the economic basis the whole immense superstructure turns over more slowly or more rapidly."

This development is beginning to emerge more and more clearly with the tumultuous development of technological progress, artificial intelligence, self-control and self-optimization of complex systems. The consistent application of this technological progress in production will pose such a challenge to socio-economic relations that it is difficult to imagine how this can be sustainably established in the already neoliberally ruined structures of the leading capitalist powers. The neoliberal counter-reformation has reached its limits in its Great Crisis since the turn of the century. The dystopia of the internally torn, over-indebted and deindustrialized capitalism of the "West" can exert less and less counter-revolutionary radiance on the peoples of Eurasia. And not only there. The defeats of regime-change operations in Syria, Venezuela, Hong Kong and Belarus show that things have fundamentally changed. In the end, if the Pentagon does not stoop to a (suicidal) "nuclear option," the chances for a renaissance of socialism by the People's Republic of China are not so bad.
This article appeared in the November 2020 issue of Marxist Blaetter (Leaves).

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